The Power Relations In The Classroom

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The power relations in the classroom

Power relationships determine what happens in the classroom understanding by power the ability of one person on another. The ability of a teacher to reach students is very varied and is related to personal and professional characteristics. The perception that students have to the teacher will be reflected in the students’ behavior. With which if the students’ perception did the teacher do not come with a certain respect, it is evident that any attempt by the teacher to set some standards will be destined for failure. It is true that in some way, that authoritarian behavior, which reflects a certain power of the teacher on the student, or not necessarily authoritarian but that this power is obvious, there are teachers that somehow that behavior have acquired it in a formInnata and other teachers who have to work on one would be strategies to convey that power. It is said that teachers with those skills acquired innately start from the taxonomy of French and Raven.

French and Raven’s social power theory

To exercise such power, it consists of a series of steps: background conditions;influence;and behavioral and situational results. In the first step I identify an agent who has the ability to influence the behavior of others, the second step talk about power in terms of influence and in the third step it is set in the results obtained by the exercise of power. There is a wide variety of definitions on different bases of what power represents, however, the definitions of the different types of power were those of French and Raven (1959). Many theorists, teachers, professionals from the world of coach and many more areas use this theory to elaborate their strategies focused on the social sphere.

In 1959, psychologists John French and Bertram Raven studied a theoretical model to define the different types or styles of power that existed in society. This theory has been very studied and launched for the study of power especially in the business field. The sources of power proposed by French and Raven are six. Both psychologists in their study determine that each of these types of power is exercised differently and different results are obtained in those who are influenced by the certain style of power. The six types of powers described by the authors of this theory are: coercive power or intimidating power, legitimate or bureaucratic power, empathic or charismatic power, reference power, power to distribute rewards or punishments and the power of alliances.

Coercive power or intimidating power:

This type of power uses the threat to the fulfillment of the other, that is, it is the ability to be imposed by force by threats and orders. In the teaching field it is said that it is not recommended because it reduces a teacher’s empathy towards the student and also causes avoidance and escape behaviors. It is a method that depends a lot on the presence of the teacher. The main idea behind this concept is that someone is forced to do something that he / she does not want to do. The main objective of intimidation is compliance

Legitimate or bureaucratic power:

It is the power that gives the ability to influence due to social status or position. This comes from an authority position and can be supported by social norms. In the teaching case it could be said that the legitimate power of a teacher has gradually diminished. Legitimate power originates from an objective of influence that accepts the power of the influential agent, while the change in behavior or compliance is produced according to the obligation of the objective.

Empatheic or charismatic power:

It is about connecting affectively with students where there are links of understanding and appreciation. It is the most recommended type of power that can be exercised in the classroom, it is also a very independent power of the presence of the teacher. It is important that when a teacher performs this strategy, he knows.

Reference Power:

It is the power derived from professional prestige and the good work. It is a power where the teacher knows and exercises perfectly the normal of the center where he works, thus giving his students an example of how things should be done, that is, the reference power is based on what the reference figureKnow about your skills and talents from experience. This power is also a very independent type of power of the presence of the teacher.

Being able to distribute rewards and punishments:

It is very dependent on the presence of the teacher, and it is a type of power that comes from the distribution of positive consequences, such as good grades, and negative consequences, such as bad grades or sanctions. It is not a very advisable power, since apart from that it is very dependent on the presence of the teacher, also what causes this type of power is to accustom students to receive something positive in exchange for them to carry out some type of activity, thewhich would have to be normalized for them to do it without expecting anything in return.

Power of alliances:

It is a totally advisable strategy to launch, it is also very independent of the presence of the teacher in question. If a teacher perceives that he alone has no power, or even having power over class, but needs a more "controller" type of power for some specific reason to demand it, the teacher in question can count on the help of hiscolleagues, students or even parents. This strategy can be very effective for a substitute teacher who does not know the environment or the context of the class, so in this way the substitute professor can be subject to external aid.

The theory of social power to practice

When a new course begins and the teacher in question will meet his students it is important that from the first day the teacher has a planning of how he will want to direct the class in terms of teacher-student relationship. Planning would answer a series of questions that the same teacher will be asked. What kind of relationship does the teacher want to get with his students?, How can you get that type of desired relationship with students? o How to impose respect in the most empathic way possible with students?

As the first class days pass, the teacher will have to profile the strategy according to the class environment. As each class is different, it is certain that the strategies for each classroom will be slightly diverse. It is important that a teacher reaches all his students and gaining the respect of schoolchildren, there are many strategies to achieve that goal, one of them is the planning of the type of power imposed by the teacher. This strategy is constantly changing in relation to the feedback that the teacher receives from his class and the teacher’s criteria.

On the first day of class with new students the teacher cannot pretend to exercise exclusively empathetic power since he still does not know how his students are. First it is important that the teacher knows each of them. It is also important that the teacher be respected from day one, but how can it be respected from the first day of class?

The most efficient way is to create a pleasant communication route with empathe. The power from the empathic route is the ideal, but the danger that students create excessive trust, so it is very important to control the distance of affection between the teacher and the student so that the relationship is the most cordial andempathic. It is convenient that the first class of class the teacher makes use of a legitimate, reference and empathic power style. The problem is that the style of legitimate power in the figure of the teacher has been lost over the years and depending on the environment within class that type of power can be void. The use of reference power could be said that it is mandatory, a teacher must do his work in an exquisite way, so that this exquisite is reflected to the students. But how to transmit good work inquisitions to students? The answer is by empathic route. So a teacher will have to plan your class compartment using several power strategies which are perfectly compatible. To establish an empathic relationship, the teacher must meet each of his students, forget about prejudices, show interest and give rise to dialogue.

What happens if through empathy the teacher fails to impose the desired respect?

It will be necessary to act quickly by modifying the script of the strategy, that is, it is very likely that the teacher needs help, which will have to use the style of the power of alliances, the teacher will ask for help from his classmates in such a waythat between the work of the teacher in question and that of his classmates he can get facilities to empathize with the students. The problem is that the use of this type of power could cause a negative reaction of students to the teacher, since they would see that the teacher is only able to organize the class, with which the help that is asked for thepartners will have to be in the most discreet way possible. Finally there would be two types of power to use, the intimidation and the power to distribute rewards and punishments. It is not advisable.

Keep in mind that it is very important to note that the effectiveness of power is very situational. Having six solid power bases studied in the field of communication, it is very important to know the situations in each way, focusing on when each one is more effective. According to French and Raven, ‘it is of special practical interest to know what basis for power or what power strategies are more likely to be effective, but it is clear that there is no simple response. It is also important to emphasize that the different forms of power are complementary and that who has the most power, less uses it.


The objectives to be achieved must be clear and concise, so that the strategies adopted are effective. For this, it is convenient to keep in mind some considerations.

Hook is better than submitting;That is, it is not a good strategy that focuses on limiting exclusively to avoiding and resolving conflicts or disturbances from those who bother, first prevail all the merely corrective strategies. It is important to be clear again and again that hooking is better than submitting, that is, the objective of this phrase is to make discipline at the service of learning, prevailing fruitful strategies to class development such as motivation, attention,self-concept and the creation of competent expectations in class.

Another point that is necessary to keep in mind is to replace the heterocontrol for the student’s self-control. This will determine the degree of intervention of the teacher, which at the same time said degree of intervention will also impact the classroom coexistence. The teacher to replace the heterocontrol will lead to disciplinary styles in the following:

  • self-discipline: where the teacher mainly focuses on student training on self-control strategies, which allow them to learn and inhibit possible impulsive and antisocial responses.
  • The consensual discipline: the rules are decided by the teacher and the students
  • The accepted discipline: the teacher is the one who establishes the standards, but still students can intervene without modifying these standards.
  • The discipline imposed: the teacher is the one who establishes the standards and applies them, without giving the students the option to intervene.


To train towards self-control strategies, the most desirable is self-discipline, with the self-discipline strategy the teacher will be able to get his students who want and can learn and can also achieve a perfect class climate, the result of good coexistence. If the strategy of promoting self-discipline, that self-control of the desired class will be distanced from our objectives, which may be necessary to move to a more consensual or more accepted strategy. The teacher to be, will never apply an imposed discipline since this strategy will surely cause negative effects on the socio -emotional training of students. 

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